The revised Ford Escape is a master at that most Canadian of talents: balancing two distinct identities by blending the wild in our hearts with our metropolitan day-to-day.

The 2017 Ford Escape would seem to be a compact SUV perfectly adapted to the Canadian rural image that has long defined the country to outsiders: practical, powerful, and with an all-wheel drive, go-anywhere attitude that makes it ideal for back-woods wanderings. It's a lie, of course - the vast majority of our country's citizens crowd themselves into cities scattered a few hundred miles from the southern border, and are more familiar with gridlock and suburban bliss than beaver dams and moose tracks.

Ford, however, understands this perfectly, which is what helps to make the recently revised Escape such a master at that most Canadian of talents: balancing two distinct identities by blending the wild in our hearts with our metropolitan day-to-day. The Blue Oval recently gave us the opportunity to play both country mouse and city mouse in the new Escape by having us pilot it from the bright lights of Calgary, Alberta to the northern isolation of the provinces Jasper National Park.

2017 Ford Escape

The 2017 Ford Escape has seen a pair of gifts bestowed upon it to better handle the vast distances that separate our major population centers. The first is a 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that is entirely new to the small SUV's option sheet, bringing with it 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. It's an improvement in more ways than one over the now-departed 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that it replaces, nearly matching it toe-to-toe while relegating the reliability issues and recalls associated with that particular motor to the history books.

Also putting in an appearance is a heavily refreshed version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder motor that was available with the previous model year Escape. Featuring a twin scroll turbo and a host of tweaks and updates, the 2.0-litre offers slightly higher output - 245 hp and 275 lb-ft - and continues in its role as one of the most powerful members of the entry-level sport-utility segment.

2017 Ford Escape

That the larger EcoBoost is more rewarding to flog in a spirited manner is obvious, but while the 2.0-litre proved adept at handling the long climbs through the Rockies the 1.5-litre was no slouch as long as we remembered to make strategy a key part of any passing manoeuvre. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across both engines, and it comes with paddle shifters on the steering wheel as well as the option of all-wheel drive.

In terms of fuel efficiency the drive to Jasper revealed that the two motors, regardless of their respective tuning, are much closer together in terms of consumption than one would think: we saw 10.1 L/100 km and 10.6 L/100 km over the course of nearly 500 kilometres behind the wheel of each, with a slight advantage going to the 1.5-litre unit. This was closer to the city rating for each engine rather than the highway score, a discrepancy we attributed to the regular climbs through mountain passes. Ford also offers a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder with the Escape, and we feel confidant that its real-world consumption would be close to that of its turbocharged brethren.

2017 Ford Escape

We were hauling only ourselves along Trans Canada 1, but the 2017 Ford Escape offered substantial interior room had we elected to assist any hitchhikers along the way. With ample seating for as many as five riders, the Escape is perfectly positioned as a family hauler, and it's got the freight capacity to match most buyer's expectations (1,925 litres behind the front row with the rear bench folded forward; half that with it in place). Whether hauling goalie gear or a vehicle full of tots, the Escape will keep all cargo - precious and otherwise - completely safe, too, thanks to a new emphasis on active equipment such as adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, lane keeping and lane monitoring assistance, and a blind spot monitoring system. In addition, the Ford sport-utility vehicle now offers a driver alertness feature that can detect when it's time to pull over and take a coffee break.

2017 Ford Escape

Also of note is the 2017 Ford Escape's upgraded infotainment system. SYNC 3 backs away from the four-quadrant touchscreen interface offered by previous versions of SYNC and instead simplifies menus and owner interactions by way of all-new graphics and logic. There's no real link between the SYNC of old and the current iteration in a move that's aimed to quell criticism about ease of use. The fresh approach works well enough, and the new-look SYNC grew on me over the course of the two days I spent poking through its various functions and capabilities. You also get five years of FordPass with the SUV, a service that links a number of mobile services via your phone to the vehicle's various systems, absolutely free.

SYNC isn't the only aspect of the 2017 Ford Escape to have undergone a makeover, as sharp eyes will easily spot the SUV's beefier sheet metal, improved lighting, and new wheel choices. It's not a dramatic reinterpretation of the Escape's design language, but it is one that takes into account the need to keep the vehicle within the Ford family. Inside the cabin things are more status quo, but the dashboard and trim have been reconfigured, along with the center console, to improve overall utility.

Ford was under no great pressure to perk up the Escape for 2017, as sales of the compact SUV routinely place it near the top of the pack alongside entries like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. Still, it's impossible to stay at the forefront by merely treading water. The Escape's strategy of continual improvement, along with an affordable starting price of $25,099, has served it well in the most cut-throat segment of the entire automotive industry, and for 2017 Ford's people mover remains worthy of consideration by Canadians of all stripes regardless of whether you're more likely to deal with potholes rather than geese nesting on your front lawn.

2017 Ford Escape

 

ENGINE

2.5-litre 4-cylinder / 1.5-litre 4-cylinder / 2.0-litre 4-cylinder

OUTPUT

168 hp / 170 lb-ft & 179 hp / 177 lb-ft & 245 hp / 275 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

6-speed automatic

0-100 KMH

7.0 seconds

TOP SPEED

N/A

FUEL ECONOMY

11.1 L/100 km City / 8.1 L/100 km Highway & 10.2L/100 km City / 7.8 L/100 km Highway

& 10.6 L/100 km City / 8.0 L/100 km Highway

WEIGHT

1,614 kilograms (3,552 lbs)

SEATING CAPACITY

5

CARGO VOLUME

1,925 litres (64 cubic feet)

BASE PRICE

$25.099

AS-TESTED PRICE

$35,999 (Titanium AWD)

 

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